Lilly Higgins: Are you a watermelon salad non-believer?

Believe me, everything tastes better with feta cheese

Summer fruits salad with feta and mint:  ‘How could something that’s so delicious on its own be made nicer by adding feta cheese?’

Summer fruits salad with feta and mint: ‘How could something that’s so delicious on its own be made nicer by adding feta cheese?’

 

I was once one of those watermelon salad non-believers. How could something that’s so delicious on its own be made nicer by adding feta cheese? Well, I’ve since come to learn that most things are nicer once feta cheese is added and watermelon is no exception.

In fact, I’ve gone even further and experimented with more fruits. Flat doughnut peaches and strawberries are divine with it too. I love black pepper with strawberries so added a nice pinch of that over the top for a peppery kick to balance that sweet seasonal fruit. You could also serve this on a bed of torn rocket leaves. This salad makes a fantastic starter for a barbecue or heavier main course. Just place it in the middle of the table on a large platter. I’ve scattered my salad with toasted pumpkin seeds for some welcome crunch, it balances out the textures nicely. Toasted sunflower seeds could also be used or pine nuts in a pinch.

Another favourite salad of mine is peach and parma ham with mozzarella. The same salty sweet combination as I’ve used here. A fun dish for summer entertaining is to make stacks using peaches in place of tomato. Just use a base of peach, then layer up the mozzarella and top with a basil leaf. Skewered with a cocktail stick they make really pretty and unusual canapés.

Watermelons are the ones to use in this salad but I love the old classic starter of a Galia or honeydew melon with salty parma ham. It’s so effortless but tastes delicious.

Ardsallagh in Cork now makes a beautiful feta-style goats cheese that would be perfect for this dish. Dollops of a salty soft goats cheese would be lovely too.

Mint’s refreshing coolness

Basil or marjoram are nice herbs to have in this salad but I’ve gone for mint. Its refreshing coolness is great with the creamy salty cheese.

I’ve used regular peppermint from my garden. Mint can be quite invasive covering vast amounts of ground and spreading like a weed underground, which is ideal if you love mojitos. I’ve never found too much mint to be a bad thing. I’ve been having great fun over the past few years growing different flavours of mint.

There are hundreds of varieties of mint including peppermint, spearmint, pineapple, orange and even chocolate mint. Once the leaves are bruised a little they release the strong smelling menthol oils and are a joy to have in the garden being useful for cooking, teas and traditional medicine. I love having a plant or two near the back door; on warm summer evenings the smell perfumes the air each time you brush past it.

Layer all of the ingredients in this salad, build it carefully by crumbling the feta over the top and scattering the crunchy pumpkin seeds. This considered layering will reward you with the perfect summer salad.

Summer fruits salad with feta and mint

Serves 4-6

½ large watermelon

10 strawberries

2 flat peaches, just ripe

80g feta cheese, roughly crumbled

Fresh mint leaves, about 10

50g pumpkin seeds, toasted

A drizzle of good olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Start by preparing the fruit. Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut it into 1 inch slices. Cut each slice into little bite size triangles. Halve or quarter the strawberries. Remove the stone from the peaches and cut into bite size pieces. Layer the fruit on a large platter. Sprinkle the black pepper over the fruit. Next scatter the feta and torn mint leaves over. Drizzle with olive oil and finally add the pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.

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